A Ballad for Stabat Mater

(A dedication to mothers)

Do you remember radiance
of one who’s always there
the taste of swollen mamilla,
the scent of her sweet hair.

Whose kiss and gentle healing touch
was cooling with a balm
that soothed your painful childish graze
and injured pride becalmed.

Who taught you that a healing touch
and kiss could lead to more;
whilst she embraced competing love,
you found what love is for.

She stood as you went off to war,
to fight life’s bitter battles.
She taught you all you need to know
to rise above mere chattels.

As wisdoms, many, come to you,
from battles won or lost,
a mother’s love transcends it all
and never counts the cost.

In your old age you may well see
your children bear their own,
revealing then the seeds of love
that Stabat Mater’s sown.

When dotage dims your consciousness,
confusion blurs your view,
expect a revelation that
her love has seen you through.

© 2012 John Anstie

Click here for the Author’s Note.


This is another poem inspired by William Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man”, which are: Infancy, Childhood, The Lover, The Soldier, The Justice, Old Age and Decline. It followed that the poem had to have seven stanzas. It is also inspired by that holy icon, the Stabat Mater, the mother of all mothers, about whom much extraordinary music has been written by countless composers and many stories told.


About PoetJanstie

“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”
This entry was posted in Ballad, emotion, Hope, Love, melancholy, poem, poetry, Religious, sadness. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Ballad for Stabat Mater

  1. Pingback: A Ballad for Stabat Mater (Mothering Day) | INTO THE BARDO, A BLOGAZINE

  2. Ahhh, just beautiful, John!
    Especially liked:
    “…a mother’s love transcends it all
    and never counts the cost.”

    Speaking as a mom, we love our children with all our hearts no matter what.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Ginny, thank you. It does paint an idyllic picture, which we know well is never always true in reality, but this is a recognition of the pain a mother often feels for her children’s security and, in truth, a father too!


  3. Quirina says:

    This is a very thoughtful and lovely poem, John, and when I read it I can’t help see the mother of all mothers as Earth. 🙂


  4. PoetJanstie says:

    Yes – to John Smallshaw – just discovered that a poet called John Knight wrote “Seven Ages of Woman” quote: “with apologies to William Shakespeare”. Much funnier than mine. So bang goes my idea of changing the title!


  5. This is such a beautiful tribute to mothers…how often we don’t appreciate them until they are not longer with us.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      That is so true, Susie. But I think there is something special about the whole ‘mother’ thing, which is not very poetically put. I’m not a Catholic, but it seems like the mother of all mothers is truly represented here.


  6. Kim Nelson says:

    A touching piece, John. How blessed are those whose relationships with their mothers are as positive and empowering as this poem. Nicely done.


  7. eden baylee says:

    Exquisite – wonderful tribute.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks so much, Eden. You are a reliable friend and, however much I keep saying to myself I’m not here to seek fame, I know deep down inside, having one’s work recognised and admired is important; and your consistent support of my endeavours is appreciated more than you know.


  8. A very moving tribute.Thanks John.


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